June 18 – 24, 2014
Add-on at end of page as of 8 pm Tuesday 6/24/2014
Last week at our school, Dalian American International School, Golden Pebble Beach, Dalian Development Area, Dalian, China.
Last time at Discoveryland. That is good after four times. This is one of those places I would never have gone too. I took my children to Disneyland in California in 1992. Discoveryland, here, five minutes from our school in Golden Pebble Beach, is a diluted Chinese version of someone’s concept of what a Western theme park should be like. For the third year we have taken the upper school for a day out. There is a blurry, merging shadow between parenting and being a teacher. As a teacher I can say meet me at our meeting point at noon but I am not saying anything about those ninth graders holding hands and going into some area that does not appear to be supervised by a so-called responsible adult. I recall as a single parent hearing one of my sons kissing in the backseat of the car – he was about 12. I did not turn around or look In fear of what I would see. Even worse was one morning when I went into the kitchen and there were two girls in pajamas. They informed me they were staying with my 14 year old. Holy cow. Was I to say something? What had they said to their parents? Was I a bad parent? Then there was the time when my younger son, about 16 at the time, when I walked into his room and he was curled up with a girl on the bed (they had their clothes on) and I said hi to the girl by the wrong name. She had long blond hair like the one I thought was his current girl friend and in my defense she looked the same. I was in the dog-house for quite some time following that.
I am sitting here next to some roller coaster ride eating fruit; everything else to eat is so Chinese —- The last time I was here I was with Narda because one of our teacher friends had his 60th birthday party here, not sure why as Narda and I really dislike this place. Anyway we went into their eating area in hopes of finding something to eat. And sitting down with our overcooked white rice and slimy MSG infused vegetables we were treated to the spectacle of a girl throwing up next to us. We got up and left quite quickly without eating. Really! When the Chinese throw up their own food it is time to move on. This time I brought sandwiches.
So sitting here my ex-parenting days come back of my role in life. I am surrounded by children’s bags. Dr. Neuage can you watch our stuff? So off they go leaving me with their gear. Now I am being asked to take a video clip when the roller coaster and their screaming selves comes around. Another child wants to know if I know where her phone is. How would I know that? Wait I am a teacher. My parenting days are long gone. What is the teachable moment? I know…. “Hey keep track of your stuff or you may lose it”.
Last! Last few days of using Internet in China. What a horrible place to try and get stuff done online. Not only is wireless almost non-existent but often when it is available it is so slow that little will download. Now I am home back in Campus Village trying to recall pages of text I wrote on the iPad which somehow disappeared when I got home.
It was a good day compared to the past three times when Discoveryland was packed and the weather was hot. Because it rained part of the day… damn this was actually interesting back several hours ago before I lost all that I wrote.
I had commented on, as it was live at the time, the daily parade that goes through the parkbut now it does not seem that interesting. It was overpopulated with scantly dressed Russian and Chinese girls.
Last! This could be my last official school teaching job this life-time. Good. Bad. Yet to know. We left Adelaide shortly after 911 occurred in NYC and I started teaching at the State University of New York at Albany. I taught ‘Globalization and Culture’ http://neuage.org/gc.htm for a few years then taught as adjunt at a couple of other colleges and became the Director Of Technology at the Albany Academy for Girls and Albany Academy for Boys which is not the Albany Academies. After six or seven years upstate we went to NYC and I taught at The Dwight School then at the Ross Global Academy before our three years at Dalian American International School. Now we are sitting in Hong Kong with last week being our last week in China and the starting of this blog which I was writing at Discovery Land and wrote some more at an airport or two and now in our hotel in Happy Valley Hong Kong. I am hoping this is our last trip to Hong Kong for what is the third time here for. Last October I had four stents put in to keep my heart pumping along then last November to see if things were still flowing OK and now to see if the past is equal to the tasks of the present.
Yesterday was a bit difficult. The Adventist Hospital is tops. A good vegetarian hospital with really great caring staff. The little downsides yesterday were the five hours of tests I had to have. Things like having my arms tied down over my head for twenty minutes at a time (did that twice) as I laid in an x-ray machine that made me feel like I was in a coffin. I am claustrophobic as is and I had waves of panic but somehow managed through it. I have no idea how people who are tortured maintained any sanity when I barely manage 20-minutes. Whatever you do keep from giving me any state-secrets because I would pass them on after the first few minutes of torture. I grew up in a heavy Christian family that used to tell me that the Russians (1950s) then the Chinese (1960s) or whatever communist group was in fashion would pull us out of our farm house in Clifton Park New York and torture us because we were Christians. Maybe that is why I have spent the last 50 years of getting away from Christian indoctrination because of the torture that the Russians and Chinese would inflict upon us. I had Chinese nurses and doctors torture me yesterday but it was because of my heart so maybe that is OK. Other torture silliness yesterday included being on a treadmill until I almost was dead. They had lots of wires hooked up to me and the treadmill would go faster every few minutes and then they would take my blood pressure. They got me up to 180 and said just one more minute. Now I do exercise going for walks every day to the beach and I lift weights almost every day. But walking on a treadmill that was going 4.2 times faster than my legs possibly could move was really nuts. I kept thinking what state-secrets could I give them to stop this torture but I was coughing and panting so hard I could not get any words out. Then of course there was the intravenous in my hand pumping in who knows what to my body for their tests. When I was in the x-ray machine I was told I could not fall asleep, not that I would but if I did and began to snore they would need to start over. There were other less stressful tests and lots of blood-letting and tube fillings as my life essence was drained out for them to look at underneath their microscopes. OK just tell me I am old and I have a faulty heart and let me on my way. I go back this afternoon to see what those results are and hopefully they won’t say that I moved when I was in the machine and have to do that test over though this time for five hours and that spending 20 minutes on a treadmill until I was close to death was not enough and that now I have to be a part of an upcoming experiment that involves being in some Honk Kong marathon up their mountains with intravenous fluids flowing through needles into several parts of my body.
So Discoveryland was not as bad as yesterday at hospital but it was a bit annoying. I amused myself looking for creative Chinglish signs;
and getting a new Facebook ID photo;
Discoveryland Dalian China
and taking photos”
Last time using squat toilets. I managed to make it through three-years and not once to have to have squatted on a squat toilet https://neuage.me/2013/06/02/skip-to-my-loo/squat-toilet/ though I use them but not to squat and more I will not say.
Last time I get to watch Narda’s elementary music classes when she has other stuff to do. For example, the last class was kindy; most of whom were crying because she is not returning next year. One child has been crying since 9 am and it is now 11. Good golly when I was that age my mother was putting me up for adoption and then I got adopted by a house full of Christians which twisted my brain into difficult to repair fragments of reality. The children wrote notes to Narda such as:
“Dear Ms. Biemond I will miss you
you are in my heart
for evey and erey
I will relly miss you …”,
Dear Ms. Biemond
you do evey thing for us
we love you Ms. Biemond
you see evey people is crying
because about you are liveing (I think she meant leaving and not living – it would be mean to cry because she is living)”
Not to worry we are watching “Muppets Take Manhattan”. Meanwhile my own middle school advisory class is running amok next door but it is the last day so it is all groovy. Of course no-one is crying because I am leaving though an 8th grader gave me a hug and I thanked her and recalled when I returned from heart surgery last October that she was the only one to run up and give me a hug and say she was glad I was OK. Middle-Schoolers are to adolescent obsessed to see much beyond their own world and to high school students I am a means to an end (to get good grades to get to university). Elementary are the ones to teach to get great emotional stroking though when I taught them at Ross Global Academy in New York City (a Charter school full of public kids from Harlem) they were quite terrible. Students at Dalian American International School were exceptional. I have never seen students that were so good. Maybe it is because of the international community that we were sandwiched in and lots of students actually lived in Campus Village and we saw them all the time outside of school too.
And all the pressures of not knowing if we could even get out of China. Now over as we head out. What happened was that soon after returning from my softball tournament https://neuage.me/2014/05/25/softball-and-wedding/ I had my passport on my desktop at home in Campus Village. We needed my passport to get a hotel room and realised it had gone missing from my desk on the same day that the cleaners cleaned our apartment. They come in Tuesdays and Tuesday after school it was not there. We looked everywhere. We spent two days looking through every speck of our apartment. Thursday morning when Narda went to get some clothing she found a credit card of mine that had been with my passport amongst her nickers that had been returned from the wash on Tuesday when they cleaned our house. We had notified Campus Village that my passport was missing and when we found the credit card – which was fortunate as we were going to cancel our card which would have made travel difficult with no way of getting a new one sent to us from the States before we were to leave China for good. We figured that somehow the wallet with the passport and credit card had fallen into the tub of laundry and the cleaners had found it melted and my passport probably ruined.
Getting a new passport is difficult and is only one-half of the problem. I went to Beijing to the Australian Consulate to begin the process which eventually took three weeks. But when I did get the new passport it took us three more weeks to get the Chinese work visa put in. We got it four days before flying out. Of course getting a work visa for my last four days of work is nuts but that is the nature of our lives.
Last shipping of same stuff around the world. We sent stuff at the start when we went to the States in 2002. For a decade we went back to Australia sometimes twice in a year and each time dragged more crap back to New York. By the time we left New York we had more than a five-thousand dollar bill to send our stuff to China only half of which the school paid for. Some of that stuff originated in New York during my past before I took it to Hawaii then to Australia in 1980 and back to NY in 20012 then to China. Last month we sent our crap to Australia more than six-thousand dollars worth; ten and a half cubic square meters of what? Some of which originated in NY then went to Australia in 1980 back to NY in 2002 then to China and now back to Australia. We had 86 boxes which included such crap as my yearbooks from Shenendehowa Central School between the years 1954 and 1965, letters from people in the 1960s (actually letters are like antique collector’s items as few write them anymore), Mardi Gras coins from 1978; along with our bikes which we have become very attached to, my father’s desk that he had since the early 1900s (he was born in 1905) and even a chest that originated in China and that my missionary aunt brought to New York in the 1930s. It is all now on a ship somewhere floating past pirates and where the Malaysian Airlines plane fell into the sea headed for South Australia to fill our garage along with a shed full of crap we have had in storage since 2001 and stuff stored in family’s sheds. Amongst all our stuff are two books about decluttering that Narda picked up once from a course we did in NY on how to declutter our life which I think we have failed miserably at.
Last time of taking photos of business that makes me wonder what were they trying to say? Did this shop say you would get a stomach ache from eating their cakes?
And the last time of living in what we called our assisted-living quarters.
I forgot that I will be 67 in a few weeks when I pranked a neighbour. Brandon our mid-20s neighbour who as strange as life can be is from the same area of upstate New York that I grew up in (we have two others; Sean and Jean, who also are from the same area and even so close that Jean’s sister lives across from where I was adopted) started the Asian thingy of putting his shoes outside of his door. First his sneakers and work shoes then a few more shoes. People started to do things like put his shoes on the elevator or in front of other people’s doors then eventually someone put a shoe rack out for him and more shoes began appear. I wanted to put a pair of female Asian style glittery high heal shoes amongst his manly shoes but did not want to spend too much. A couple of weeks ago we found the perfect shoes and for 25 RMB (about four US dollars). I put them amongst his shoes on a Sunday night. Monday other teachers asked him if he had a visitor – actually we all had a bit of a go at him and he just kept saying he had no idea where they were from. Then Erin put an ironing board against the wall next to his door so I put it up and put the shoes on them. More things appeared over the last week there including condoms, beers bottles, Vaseline, and when we left it was a sort of a piece of art. I will miss our time in China it has been good.
In front of Brandon’s door. Note the hair dryer (a few more ended up there) considering he keeps his head shaved or very short this was definitely needed. This display was much larger when I left with many more things added.
Brandon’s shoe rack before we added much more on the last couple of days
The shoe rack started off like this
After five hours of testing yesterday I saw Dr. King who put in four stents last October and he was concerned about some results so he sent me to take another test. The one where they inject dye through your body and shove you into a large x-ray machine. Much like yesterday except this one gives a metallic taste and whenever they inject more dye it burns through the whole body.
So after the test he says he will call me at six tonight which he did to tell me I have more heart disease – new disease that was not there eight months ago. Damn ! Now we have to run around and get our lame ass insurance company to OK the surgery to happen in the next few days. We have already canceled our trip to Hanoi but hope to still get to Laos next week. Bloody heart…. having five planets in Leo with Saturn and Pluto and Sun and Venus and the like squaring Jupiter – give me a break I don’t even believe in that stuff.
Get heart surgery tonight at 7 pm at Adventist Hospital Hong Kong
watching the world go by in Hong Kong
I was going to write a blog at least once a week; perhaps daily. It was a fine goal, right up there with I was going to work on one of my novels, poems, paintings or children stories a little bit every day, especially the ones I started back in the 1970s, then the one I did in the 1980s and surely I would add to the finished ones of the 1990s and my favourite, “Leaving Australia” that was completed five years ago. That one, all 550 pages, I printed and bound two copies of; one for my son in Melbourne and one for me. When Sacha came to visit a month ago I asked him if he had read the one I gave him four years ago and he said he was going to read it on his trip to Dalian but it was too heavy to carry with his other stuff; something about traveling lightly. Good golly. But surely a blog, added to if not daily at least weekly would be easy. Then as usual life got in the way and I just noticed I had not written anything since Chinese New Years almost four months ago. I have put up many youtube videos in that time from our wanders in Thailand, and various places in China but to write…. It is school – I work so much on lesson plans and projects that I never write anything for myself.
So I will just jot down notes about yesterday as it was a bit of a typical this-is-China day.
It started way to early, Saturday the 19th of May. I was awake at 3 AM, worried about something; our renters moving out of one of our houses – the one in NYC, or was it my Flash class that my overly-driven Korean students are determined to get a perfect score and the more challenging I make the content even getting them to learn ActionScript coding, the more determined they are to outdo me, or was it that I got an email about re-roofing our house in upstate NY; the Victorian house with a slate roof – not cheap, or our upcoming little trip: to Beijing and getting to Atlanta a week after Narda as I have to stay back and do some IT stuff @ school then taking a driving holiday around the deep south and going to New Orleans for a week – my old stomping grounds in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was a street artist in Jackson Square, then back to Beijing and on to Australia for July and then back to work here in Dalian – though I was not worried about the road-trip but that we may have to fly to New York because of having to deal with renters or roofs or some other fun-not stuff. I was worried that I was getting more grey hair – though people tell me that at a few months nearer to 65 than I wish to be, the fact I have little grey hair now is a fact to celebrate and not moan about having a few grey hairs is not what I want to see. I look in the mirror and say who is that old fart?
Back to yesterday. Maybe I did fall asleep for a while but I was awake at five and got up because I was scheduled to chaperone our middle-school overnight lock-in. I managed to get out of any overnight duty and was slotted into the 6 – 10 AM section. The children were already running around, some having slept less than a couple of hours. They were doing their overnight in the gym and surrounding rooms so I did my early morning weights routine and played some basketball with them and herded about 60 middle schoolers off to the school and to breakfast. (We live a two minute walk to the gym and another one minute walk to school so our work and home life is all muddled together and many of the children live here too as their parents work for the big companies nearby: Intel, Goodyear, VW – stuff like that). So yes the morning shift was easy – though I was sleepy. It was the rest of the day…
A couple of our teachers were celebrating their 40 anniversary together and wanted to have a shared celebration at Discoveryland. Discoveryland is a Disneyland Chinese copy. It is also a ten-minute bike ride away. We live rather remotely but not far away is the national resorts of Golden Pebble Beach (our morning walks before school) and forested areas and the big tourist thingy of Discoveryland. We had never been inside, because the idea of being in a place like that was quite repulsive. So we ride over, tie up our bikes, pay the 170 RMB (about $25 US) to go in and though it is supposed to be the largest adventure park in China and one of the largest in Asia it was the most budget thing I had seen. It is not Disneyland – though in some fake Chinese manner it is quite similar. The food places were all Chinese and quite bad. I managed to get a vegetarian meal but Narda took one bite of her alleged meat ball and could not eat any more. We noticed someone had thrown up at the next table and a crew came in to clean up but it pretty much summed up the place. I found it interesting that inside their large medieval castle there was a cathedral and the cathedral was actually the start of the ghost-house tour and there were bats flying around the stained glass windows. I suppose it is the Chinese concept of religion as superstition and they wanted to be clear about it. We did not want to go on any rides though some of the teachers we went with got in line for the roller-coaster and two hours later they were still in the same line. We walked around, Narda bought a dress – always the way to make a great day better and we hopped on our bikes and headed home leaving the rest of the people we went in with to enjoy Discoveryland without us. The downside? Yes, I get to go there next week with our whole upper school, a kind of end-of-year event. How exciting. Maybe I will take my camera – this was the first time I had not taken videos or stills in years which tells even more how much I enjoyed myself.
So I am buggered and decide to take a nap at 3. Narda was a bit concerned as she was given a couple of tickets to the “Dalian Korean Youth Orchestra’ concert. As some of her students were in the group parents had given her tickets to attend this ‘special event’. Luckily, she was going with another person and I was going to be left to take a nap. At 3.15 the friend said she was ill and could not go. At 3.20 Narda rang our driver and said to cancel the car to Kaifaqu and everything seemed great. At 3.40 the driver rang and said he was downstairs waiting – we have had no communication problems in the past but Narda was sure that the driver understood ‘cancel’ ‘no car’ no no no. Narda doesn’t want to go alone and then I am up and dressed in five minutes and we are hurdling toward our concert at 3.45 that is to start at 4 and Kaifaqu is half an hour away except for the way most people drive they manage to cut the time down heaps. It only took us 20 minutes. We have learned not to look out the front window because it is too scary the way people weave and cut and beep horns and rarely use blinkers. One thing Narda noticed at a traffic light was a person laying on the grassy part between streets. He wasn’t moving and there were a couple of cars stopped but no one was looking after him. We realized he was dead. In China if someone causes an accident and injures someone it is up to the accident causing person to look after the injured for the rest of their life. It is better if the person dies as they only have to do the funeral. Also, and we saw this our first week here with a person who fell or was knocked off his motorbike and lay dead in the road and was still there hours later, it is up to the family to come and collect the person. Bottom line, don’t get killed in China.
So we got into the concert fifteen minutes late but no one had started – like most things we see in China, this was quite chaotic and we just sat in the first empty seats we found instead of finding our actual seats which seemed to cause confusion around us. In China we have noticed, people talk all the time no matter the setting and as someone up front was introducing or saying something everyone around us just kept chatting like there was no one on the stage. The thing started at 4.35 and got off to a bit of a shaky start. At one point a child behind me, being restless and as bored as us, started kicking the seat in front of him, which was mine. I turned around and said ‘will you stop kicking my chair it is very annoying’ in nice clear English without realizing that these people probably had no idea what the words were but the content was obvious as the mother hit the kid and yelled a whole stream of foreign words at him. He didn’t kick my seat anymore.
We managed to slip out at intermission and decided to attend a movie, something we had not done in China. At the Cinema we found that the new movie (we think it is new) “Avengers” was playing. As we have gotten adapt with pointing and head nodding and shaking we saw it was in English and it was 3-D and we got free popcorn and soda all for 55 RMB (about $9) and it was starting right then and there. The theatre and large screen were better than what we had seen in NYC and the seats were large and comfortable. The last time we had been to a movie in Asia was in India and we walked out after half an hour because the movie was so stupid and violent.
We got a taxi home – I carry my business card with me that has our home in Chinese so we get around easily, and that was our day.
Last weekend we spent the weekend, two-nights, at the 5-star Kempinski Hotel in downtown Dalian overlooking Labor Park http://dalian.neuage.us/LaborPark.html. And previous to that we have been to Thailand for spring break and Beijing and just exploring here on the weekends. Maybe the next blog will be from a one-star motel in Alabama as we go off to see the real-America.